Eat a heart-healthy diet, and you'll cut your risk of heart attack or stroke. Heart-healthy diets are low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium but high in fiber. Because many types of meat can be sources of unhealthy fat and sodium, it’s important for those looking to reduce their risk to choose wisely. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 6 ounces of cooked meat each day.
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Fish Is Best
All fish is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice each week as part of a heart-healthy diet. Some types of fish, like salmon, sardines, albacore tuna or herring, are higher in fat, but the fat in those fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may have benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system. It’s best to bake, broil or grill your fish, and avoid fried fish, which is much higher in unhealthy fat.
Skinless poultry, such as chicken or turkey, is also lean and low in saturated fat, which makes it a good choice as part of a heart-healthy diet. Though poultry is also naturally low in sodium, some is injected with a saltwater solution to make it plumper and more moist, so be sure to check the label to make sure it doesn’t have added sodium. Turkey or chicken breast, or white meat, is lowest in fat overall, but even the dark meat is still fairly lean. Most of the fat in poultry comes from the skin, which should be removed before eating. Like fish, poultry is a good choice as long as it’s baked, roasted or grilled instead of fried.
Watch the Beef
In general, red meat like beef, pork and lamb has more saturated fat and cholesterol than fish or poultry, so it should be eaten less frequently on a heart-healthy diet. Beef and pork labeled “loin” or “round” is usually lowest in fat, as is hamburger labeled “95 percent extra lean.” Another tip to help find leaner meats is to look for less expensive “select” or “choice” cuts rather than “prime” grades of beef. The lowest fat cuts of red meat include beef sirloin, tenderloin or round, pork tenderloin or loin chops, and leg of lamb. When preparing your meat for cooking, trim away any visible fat around the edges to further reduce the saturated fat.
Ditch Most of the Deli
Most deli meats, including bologna, salami and ham, and processed meats like bacon, sausage and hot dogs are high in fat and sodium and not recommended for a heart-healthy diet. Better deli choices include low-sodium turkey or chicken breast or lean roast beef.